‘I haven’t had any threats or anything yet but I certainly would not be surprised at all. It just amazes me that in the 21st century to speak out against violence and abuse of women is still a subversive act in a large part of the world. We have a lot of work to do.’
– Amy Logan, author, The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice
When Amy Logan first learned that Druze women and girls live in fear of honor killing, she herself was involved in a physically and verbally abusive relationship. She found herself identifying profoundly with these women, and one thing became certain to her: as an American woman, she could walk away from the abusive relationship she was in, an option rarely available to the many women and girls living under the threat of honour killings. Her deep empathy for them turned her life around in a way she could have never imagined. This is her story.
In 1994, Amy Logan was asked by the Israeli government to visit Israel along with a group of travel journalists to write about the country. While in the country, Logan was taken to spend an afternoon with the Druze community, otherwise known by the Israelis as the “friendly arabs” because of their role in the Israeli army fighting against Arabs and Druze people in other countries. It was this experience that introduced Logan to the inhumane and puzzling practice of “honour killings”.
‘I met the Druze and was fascinated by them and yet I also discovered that they committed honour killing,’ explains Logan. ‘I had never heard that term before and yet I knew somehow that it was going to be very important to me, that my life would be different after that.’
An honour killing is the murder of a family member who has tarnished the family’s dignity, honour and respect within the community. Victims of honour killings tend to be the females of the family who have committed acts that may appear “too Western” or “too independent” in the eyes of male family members. Logan was horrified to discover that Druze girls have been murdered – “in the name of honour” – by their brothers and fathers for losing their virginity before marriage, moving away from home, and refusing to marry a Druze.
‘I realised these Druze women lived in a culture where they were second class citizens and subject to violence and abuse as an aspect of their own culture,’ she said. ‘It made it a lot easier to make the decision to just walk away from the relationship I was in, and that’s exactly what I did.’
Back in the States, Logan left her abuser and directed her attention towards her rapidly developing curiosity. Eager to uncover the origins of honour killings, she began reading everything she could find on it. However, she soon realised there were no existing answers to her questions.
‘I couldn’t find any dissertations that had been written on it,’ says a bewildered Logan. ‘The journalism stopped at “It’s pre-Islamic.” But why stop at pre-Islamic? There’s a lot of history before the 7th century. I started to wonder if I was the most curious person about this subject.’
Desperate, she reached out to NGOs, journalists, authors, and anyone else who might have some answers. However, even the agencies that supposedly dealt with women abuse slammed their doors in her face. She was dealing with people who were simply unconcerned about the origins of the practice, straying away from discussing anything that would make their job harder.
‘If you don’t look at the causes of something and start there, really what are you doing?’ challenges Logan. ‘The conspiracy of silence around this horrible practice is why it has continued unabated for thousands of years and I’ll never forget the chill I felt through my whole body when I realised it will continue unabated unless somebody really starts to speak up about it.’
So Logan decided to be that “somebody”. Over the next ten years she traveled around the world, reading texts and talking to people, unearthing the lost origins of a frightful cultural practice. Logan returned to Israel and stayed with a Druze family for a short while, a rare chance that allowed her to gain a deeper insight into the lives of these intriguing people.
Why had no one done the research before? ‘Fear,’ answers Logan. She went on to explain how women living within these cultures are under too much threat to question the practice, fearing the prospect of being murdered simply for doing so.On the other hand, women outside the zone of threat lack a deep compassion much needed to solve the mystery for these wronged women. When it isn’t you or your loved one under threat, the sad truth is that one is ‘less motivated to care’. Logan’s personal experience with female abuse meant that she felt extreme sorrow upon hearing of such malice. Until Amy Logan, no one’s research had gone into the origins of honour killings like hers had, a fact that often made it challenging for her to continue on her quest for answers. With 150 sources in her bibliography for her novel, Logan explained why her decade of research wasn’t always a walk in the park.
‘Researching something that the perpetrators don’t want you to be finding out, they don’t want you digging there; that is the hardest thing.’
However, despite the hardships, her passion for the cause never ceased and she can’t recall a single moment when she felt her focus shift away from the battle at hand.
‘I just knew that I would at least establish a theory. I felt so strongly that this is important enough that it needs to be done. I couldn’t stop.’
And we are very thankful she didn’t. On International Women’s Day, March 8th 2012, Amy Logan’s debut fictional novel – based on her research on honour killings – was released. A work of truth and honesty surrounding a mysterious culture and a perplexing cultural practice, The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice exposes the horrors of a merciless act, leaving readers astonished that such evil continues in the 21st century.
Logan stresses that while her book is centered around a Druze family, it’s not just the Druze community committing honour killings. Rather, the Druze are just a tiny culture across a large part of the world that practice honour killings, a part that Logan calls the “honour-killing zone”.
‘I think every culture that practices honour killing is ashamed of it,’ she says. ‘They don’t want the West to know their dirty secret because they don’t want to be criticised for it. But the fact that they feel somewhat ashamed of it tells me that they know something is wrong, that it’s not right. Yet they don’t know why they’re doing it because they’ve forgotten the reason it got started in the first place.’
With that in mind, Logan hopes her research over the last decade will play a role in helping the people who commit honour killings to understand their own behaviour and why they practice and support it in the first place. That, in itself, is one step closer to change.
‘I don’t think any of it makes sense to them either but they’re doing it because it’s a patriarchal system.’
Apart from revealing some of the horrors of a cultural practice unknown to most in the West, The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice also forces readers from other cultures to come to terms with the fact that abuse against women isn’t an “Eastern versus Western” phenomenon. Logan’s words compel women everywhere to acknowledge the cruelties that take place against females everyday in all corners of the globe, including in the West.
‘We do have many freedoms that I do not take for granted and that I am so grateful for,’ admits the courageous writer. ‘I couldn’t be having this conversation with you, having published a book, put it on the Internet; I couldn’t be doing that safely in many places in the world. I’m very grateful for that but we are subject to many of the same abuses, violence, exploitation and discrimination as women in the East.’
At the same time, Logan also understands that women in the East are unfortunately – more often than not – subject to abuse at a more “insidious degree”. She hopes her novel will highlight some of the mistreatment these women are faced with, creating sufficient awareness to ensure that women everywhere have enough knowledge about this brutal oppression and abuse, encouraging them to unite and stand up together for their gender, particularly in the regions where this exploitation is deeply embedded within the culture.
‘This practice is not going to be ended by an American woman,’ reaffirms Logan. ‘It is going to have to be the women in the honour-killing zone who are going to have to start standing up for each other. That, to me, is the most mind-blowing thing; women have turned against women. How can you expect the men to show you respect when you’re not doing it yourself?’
If her research and novel wasn’t playing a large enough role in making a difference, Logan will also be donating 10% of her book proceeds to the Global Fund for Women, an international organisation that funds projects to empower women economically, socially, politically and educationally. Some may wonder why the author of a book dedicated to combating honour killings didn’t choose to donate her proceeds to a charity working on the same issue, however, Logan has the answers to defend her choice.
‘If women don’t have political, economic, social or educational power, they cannot act as their own agency for themselves. They are going to be the ones to stop honour killing; not me, not anybody in the West. They have to build a foundation for themselves to be able to end this practice in their own cultures and that’s why I wanted to give proceeds to the Global Fund for Women.’
Describing them as “one of the best charities on earth for women”, Logan is honoured to have them as a partner. Her greatest hope is that her research and her writing will make a difference in some way, and she believes this charity will help her make that difference.
However, it doesn’t end here for this inspiring woman. She is currently working on fulfilling her desire to do a TED talk on her extensive research, as well as entice the media and gain speaking engagement to spread the word further. She hopes to attract the attention of foreign publishers who will publish The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice in the languages of the honour-killing zone so that victims and perpetrators of the practice will have a chance to read about it from a different perspective than they are used to. And if that’s not enough, Logan has also revealed that she has a few ideas for future novels, with a particular theme dominating the rest of her work that further enhances her untiring passion and dedication for the cause.
‘The common thread in the rest of the work that I do has to do with peace between genders; that is where my heart is.’